October 2011




A tribute to David J. Apple, M.D.

by I. Howard Fine, M.D.


David Joseph Apple, M.D., died August 18, 2011. He was born on September 14, 1941, in Alton, Ill. He was a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He served his internship and residency in pathology at Louisiana State University. He did postgraduate work in Germany and completed a residency in clinical ophthalmology at the University of Iowa in 1979. He was subsequently an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Illinois, Eye and Ear Infirmary. In 1982, he co-founded the Center for Intraocular Research in Salt Lake City with Randall Olson, M.D. He later became professor of ophthalmology and pathology and chairman at the Storm Eye Institute, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, where he held the Pawek-Vallotton Chair of Biomedical Engineering and was the director of the Center for Research in Ocular Therapeutics and Biodevices until 2002. In 2002 he transferred his center to Utah where he became a professor in ophthalmology and pathology and director of the David J. Apple Laboratories for Ophthalmic Device Research, Moran Eye Center, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Salt Lake City.

Dr. Apple was an extremely accomplished and highly honored ophthalmologist. His research utilized the Miyake-Apple device for microscopic evaluation of the anterior segment in enucleated eyes. He contributed an enormous amount of information that dramatically facilitated and contributed to successful cataract and implant surgery. Among the areas to which he brought evidence-based information were the finishing and polishing of IOLs, IOL designs and materials, factors for delaying posterior capsule opacification, long-term centration of IOLs, measuring the dimensions of the human crystalline lens and the ciliary body sulcus, and factors that contributed to less invasive phacoemulsification techniques.

I personally had the experience of working with David in his lab on cortical cleaving hydrodissection, safe techniques for implantation of new IOL designs, and endolenticular phacoemulsification techniques through a continuous curvilinear capsulorhexis.

David trained scores of medical students and fellows, the Apple Korps, many of whom along with his co-workers have gained international recognition in our field. These respected leaders include Ehud Assia, Nick Mamalis, Liliana Werner, Kerry Solomon, Gared Auferth, Manford Tetz, Suresch Pandy, and others.

David received the ASCRS Innovators (Kelman) Award and the Binkhorst Medal, was inducted into the ASCRS Ophthalmology Hall of Fame, and received the American Academy of Ophthalmology Lifetime Achievement Award. He was recognized with similar unique and outstanding awards in Asia and Europe and is known throughout Latin America and the rest of the world for his major contributions to our specialty.

On a personal level, David was a good friend and a delightful person with a subtle sense of humor. He had a passion for history, especially the history of science, the Civil War, and music. He liked to inform ophthalmologists that Johann Sebastian Bach died shortly after his health began to deteriorate as a result of a botched cataract surgery by an itinerant surgeon. David reminded us that the first hostilities of the Civil War took place in Charleston, his home, with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter. He had an enormous corpus of knowledge and was a great lover of music. While living in Charleston, he served on the boards of the Charleston Symphony and the Charleston Ballet and was active in Chamber Music Charleston. He was pleased that his home was the model for one of the houses on Catfish Row, the stage setting for the American opera "Porgy and Bess." He loved to travel, was fluent in German, and had a special affection for his dachshunds. His wife, Ann, was the love of his life and a favorite of their friends throughout the world. A few years after their marriage, David was diagnosed with a malignancy, which required surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Ann nurtured, maintained, and cared for him magnificently over the ensuing years as he dealt with the chronic pain and the terrible side effects of his surgery and anti-cancer treatments.

David continued to travel and teach in spite of his infirmities. Because of the strength of his character and the help of his wife, he was able to persist. He will be missed by those of us who knew him well and by eye surgeons all over the world who derive greater professional satisfaction from improved surgical outcomes as a result of his work. In his book, Sir Harold Ridley and His Fight for Sight, David educated ophthalmologists and the public on the early history of intraocular lenses and lens implantation. He often stated that Harold Ridley changed the world. What we can say about David Apple is that he vastly improved the world that Harold Ridley changed.

A tribute to David J. Apple, M.D. A tribute to David J. Apple, M.D.
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